Will you all excuse me today if I indulge in a little fanfare? Because this is the publication day in America of my book 'The Shadow Hunt' - and you can see the cover, to the right of this post. 'The Shadow Hunt' is what I would describe as a children's historical fantasy based on Celtic and medieval legends, and it took over most of my life for one and a half years.
Writing a book is such darned hard work, and frankly such a lonely occupation, that a publication day is genuinely a time to rejoice. As I've explained, I gave this blog its name because writing is very much like crossing seven miles of hill on fire and seven miles of steel thistles, and seven miles of sea.
When you begin writing a new book - as I'm doing now - it feels impossible. IM-possible. I have these ideas, and these characters, and a situation, and I feel I don't know half enough about them, and I set out on a long journey of discovery, all the time with the fear that I'll never get there. But gradually, at a snail-like pace, the pages stack up till there are twenty... fifty... a hundred... (I print out and revise as I go: it may well take me months to write a hundred pages) ...till I find myself in the middle of the book, in the middle of this long stretch of work that's been going on seemingly forever, and will go on seemingly forever. And at this point, I sleep, eat, dream the book. I go to bed at night with my mind running the characters like a computer simulation, and I wake in the small hours and in the mornings thinking about them and understanding a little bit more and a little bit more. It's exhausting, exhilarating, terrifying, and highly anti-social.
My life is subsumed into the writing process. I read, but only books which will help with the research, the background, the symbolism, or the actions of the characters. I go for walks or drives, so that I can think and think about the book. I shut myself up to go over and over the pages already written, to rewrite, to shred, to revise, to - as far as lies within me - to perfect.
The tipping point comes. A day arrives when I recognise that the book WILL BE WRITTEN: that enough has been done to give the story a life of its own. Like an unborn child, it's viable. Life gets a little easier then. And at last the final chapter, the final pages get written in a rush of euphoria.
It's done! I've finished! Free at last of the awful tyranny of the powerful god or daemon of creation. Free for a while to do ordinary things, think ordinary thoughts, dig the garden, go shopping. The editing and all that - that's just work, to be enjoyed or grumbled through in an everyday way. It's not to be compared with the sucking-you-down-into-the-deeps, never-letting-you-get-a-breath, octopus-grip of the creation-god.
So here's to publication day, along with a couple of starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist, and the very pleasant news that 'The Shadow Hunt' has been chosen by the Junior Library Guild, to be reviewed in its July edition. You can find out more about it on my website.
If you think the book sounds like something you might like, please give it a go!